By 1st Lt. Tobias Cukale | 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Following a series of training events designed to forge its forces into lethal fighting teams in fall and winter of 2020 — the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, spent much of late January and early February 2021, testing its capabilities in several cumulative training events dubbed “Operation Iron Strike.”
These concurrent trainings, consisting of a sustainment gunnery, (sustainment) platoon situational training exercises (STX), company STX and a tactical operation center exercise (TOCX) served to validate the brigade in preparation for its upcoming rotation to the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, this spring.
“Iron Strike and our other concurrent multi-echelon training helped develop (us) for NTC greatly,” said Maj. Zachary Morris, executive officer, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd ABCT. “Due to the multi-echelon training going on simultaneously, many systems across the battalion were stressed. Things like reporting, battle tracking, TOC operations, planning and sustainment all came together to enable all the different training and improve the overall skill and experience in 1-8 Infantry.”
Each training event tested Soldiers and crews at every level.
During sustainment gunnery, units focused on qualifying new M1A2 Abrams and M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle crews.
One tank commander, 1st Lt. Norman “Buddy” Conley, who shot and qualified “distinguished” with his crew, credits his success with the expert quality of his NCO’s training up to the event.
“One major highlight was the quick and very effective train-up executed by Blue (Platoon’s) expert NCOs,” said Conley, an infantry officer serving as a tank platoon leader with 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd ABCT. “Another gunnery highlight was the B31 crew scoring a 100” on one of its engagements.
Meanwhile at the STX lanes, platoons were given a critical opportunity to develop their maneuver skills.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Weinstein, tank master gunner with 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Reg., 3rd ABCT, said the crews used the time at platoon STX to also develop Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System proficiency.
Finally, STX and the TOCX tested company and staff capabilities to fight enemies and sustain the force while simultaneously preparing for the battles ahead.
Morris highlighted the communication lessons learned as a critical development for companies and his battalion’s staff.
“During company STX, while Charlie Company was conducting a night defense STX lane, Juliet Company was simultaneously resupplying Bravo Company and the TOC located a few kilometers away was doing planning for Iron Strike,” he added. “The TOC was also battle tracking all these actions and trying to deconflict them. That night ended up being a great experience for many of the young staff officers and NCOs in the TOC. The companies also learned a lot about reporting that night and how crowded different radio nets can become. Overall, it was a great training event.”
Lt. Col. Michael Erlandson, commander, 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Reg., 3rd ABCT, expressed pride in his battalion’s performance throughout the training cycle.
“I was extremely pleased with the level of proficiency (that the regiment) achieved through our completion of company STX,” Erlandson said. “This was the first opportunity that our company commanders had to maneuver their platoons against an opposing force. We learned a lot about our internal capabilities both as a staff and as tacticians. Iron Strike was a fantastic training event that gave us additional staff reps at analyzing and producing OPORDS in preparation for NTC.”
A key component to the success of these events was the input of the evaluators from 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, who recently returned from NTC.
“The external evaluators from 1st SBCT provided us with critical feedback on ways to improve our battalion-level systems,” Erlandson said. “We are extremely grateful for their time and professionalism.”
With Iron Strike and its accompanying training complete, the brigade will begin focusing on deployment preparations for NTC.